Rational Attitudes With Realistic Outlooks

Japanese Millennials avoid extravagance and unnecessary efforts or conflicts, preferring a peaceful, somewhat detached view of life.

Why are Japanese Millennials ranking the lowest among 23 countries in six out of seven European Social Survey questions and in three out of ten Social Values questions? The underlying cause is likely related to the tendency of this Millennial generation (often called Satori Generation” in Japan) to prefer a steady life over holding onto high hopes or ambitions.


The Japanese economy started receding around February 1991 and the bubble economy collapsed soon thereafter, bringing the stable-growth period to an end. The economic stagnation that followed this bubble burst is known as the “Two Lost Decades.” Even the oldest members of the Millennial generation (now 35) have seen nothing but recession, as the bubble burst when they were just 12 years old.


In conjunction with this period, advanced telecommunication technologies and the Internet have been available to Japanese Millennials for some time. Growing up with an overwhelming amount of information revealing a less optimistic future, Japanese Millennials developed more realistic attitudes and placed more importance on rationality. Despite this, Japanese Millennials are moderately satisfied with their lives, as they have grown up in an age of material abundance after a long stable growth period.


Rather than holding more aspirational goals, Japanese Millennials avoid extravagance and unnecessary efforts or conflicts, preferring a peaceful, somewhat detached view of life. They are less interested in cars or premium brands, and are more satisfied with a moderate, less ambitious lifestyle. They are also observed to be more passive in romantic relationships, and less interested in travelling overseas or aggressively spending money on personal passions.


The attitudes of Japanese Millennials can be seen in their low scores on satisfaction with life (10% vs. 20% global average), the economy (6% vs. 11% global average), a sense of accomplishment in their lives (17% vs. 41% global average) and a sense of optimism (27% vs. 49% global average).


Additionally, Japanese Millennials feel less responsible for helping those worse off than themselves (54% vs. 67% global average) and are less likely to feel the need to achieve a level of social success that is recognized by others (50% vs. 58% global average).


Overall, Japanese Millennials are not mentally fulfilled and have anxieties about the future (probably since childhood). We can speculate that this is why they prioritize security over high hopes or ambitions. The results suggest that with this comes some blame and apathy towards the government and ‘authority’ in general, with 56% (vs. 40% global average) disagreeing with the statement that It should primarily be government, not the private sector that is concerned with solving the country’s problems. Additionally, 34% of Japanese Millennials (versus a 53% global average) believe that young people should be taught to obey authority. In a culture that has typically deferred to age and authority, this is a surprising development.


The Japanese economy is currently doing moderately well, supported by the economic policy of the Abe regime (also known as Abenomics). It will be interesting to see if this improvement lasts long enough to dispel the distrust and detachment among Millennials that has developed as a result of the long recession.

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